10 Best Things I Ate in August
Grilled Asparagus at Virtú Honest Craft in Scottsdale
All photos by Laura Hahnefeld
Summer may be taking its sweet time saying good-bye, but the good eats served up on this critic's plate for the month of August seem all but a blur.
From dishes like heady asparagus at one of my favorite new restaurants, to food truck pho, to a handful of a.m. eats perfect to start your day with, here are ten of the best things I ate this month selected from reviews, first-time visits, and places I've popped into just because.
It's not a countdown, it's a collection. And I hope it inspires. Enjoy.
Grilled Asparagus at Virtú Honest Craft
Chef-owner Gio Osso's new and wonderful cafe in Scottsdale is a white board of elegant, ever-changing, Mediterranean-inspired dishes -- like the stellar, breakfast-for-dinner-starter of grilled asparagus ($14) topped with an egg and interspersed with foie gras Hollandaise, truffle oil, bright feta, and "bacon candy" that's every bit of both. Cross your fingers you'll find it at Virtú's soon-to-come weekend brunch.
The Ivan Burger at The Attic
With good looks to match its flavor, the secret to this Arcadia restaurant's half-pound Ivan Burger ($12 and named after the chef and co-owner who created it, Ivan Morrow), is the signature meat grind used for its well-seasoned patty and a locally made pretzel bun to hold together toppings like tomato, onion, and house made chipotle mayo. Want a slice of melted Swiss, crisp bacon, or sauteed mushrooms on it as well? You know you do.
Oh, Canada, Peanut Butter Bar at Cowboy Ciao
Inspired by Canada's popular Nanaimo dessert, venerable pastry chef Country Velador has created a kind of candy bar mash-up gone gourmet with this outstanding entry ($10) at Scottsdale's Cowboy Ciao. Featuring a house made graham cracker crust, layers of mascarpone, peanut butter, and coconut ganache, and a scoop of scratch-made banana ice cream, it's a sweet case for dessert first.
Roasted Tomato and Pesto Egg Sandwich at Bertha's Cafe
Hungry for a good breakfast sandwich? Stop in to Beth Goldwater's cheery Phoenix cafe and ask for her English muffin creation ($5.50) layered with baked eggs, arugula, and melted Havarti lit up by a layer of pesto and juicy roasted tomatoes. Pairing it with one of Goldwater's perfect pastries -- a giant blueberry muffin, warm cinnamon roll slathered in white icing, or a fruity homemade "pop-tart" -- pretty much goes without saying.
Pho Cupp'd at The Great Pho King Food Truck
Hitch a ride on this new-ish Valley food truck of French-Vietnamese eats for a jumbo-sized, steaming cup of the noodle soup pho ($8.50) and you'll find a satisfying, savory broth chock-full of tender chicken or beef and vegetables served up with the classic accoutrements to do with what you will. For where they'll Pho King be next, check out the calendar on their website.
Stuffed French Toast at Zuzu
If you're the a.m. sort who fantasies about thick-sliced brioche stuffed with a woozy lemon cream cheese and served with a handful of sweet berries, than the stuffed French toast ($11) at Zuzu, inside the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, might be your new breakfast crush. Bonus: the accompanying fresh-baked scones, like the restaurant's Mid-Century swank, are free to enjoy.
Birria at Taqueria Yaqui
Craving a stellar bowl of Mexican goat meat stew? Nab a seat (if you can) at this popular hangout at McDowell Road and 36th Street and be treated to a bowl of spicy, tangy, and smoky birria ($6). Served with limes, cilantro, onions, primo salsas, and fresh tortillas to do with what you please, it's pretty much perfect. But be warned, this bustling spot is cash-only, offers mostly outdoor seating, and is open solely on the weekends.
Twisted Ramen Noodles Scented with Lobster Miso at Renegade by MOD
This year, all over the country, more cities than ever are celebrating ramen. And at ex-Kai chef Michael O'Dowd's bold new restaurant of re-invented foods from around the globe that take a walk on the wild -- yet still sophisticated -- side, you'll find a phenomenal version of it ($30) amped-up with decadent ingredients like foie gras, lobster knuckles, quail egg, Asian mushrooms, and truffles. Lusciously slurp-worthy.
Ice Cream at Melt
Thanks to Jobot owner John Sagasta, First Friday fans and Roosevelt Row denizens can pop into his new late-night ice cream shop for a frozen treat courtesy of Gilbert's Udder Delights (Superstition Farms) ice cream. Score a scoop of one of twenty classic and unique rotating flavors (hint: try the cinnamon) served up in a homemade waffle cone ($4.50) or in a Chinese take-out box topped with a fortune cookie. Cool.
Vanilla Bean Olive Oil Waffles at Queen Creek Olive Mill
There may be no better way to kick off a day of agri-tourism at this decade-old sustainable farm than its thick and crispy waffles kissed with vanilla and topped with bananas, cream, a handful of Arizona pistachios, and a drizzling of house made syrup ($7.29). And (bonus) because they're served all day, you'll have time to stop at The Pork Shop nearby for a gourmet sausage.
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